Published on the Ireland for Europe Blog
Over the weekend, I looked back on the points Declan Ganley made at the launch of Libertas’s campaign two weeks ago.
As I watched this, I found that nearly every point he made could be disputed, if not refuted. Below is a critical analysis of his case.
He begins by stating that this is the same European Constitution that the French and the Dutch rejected, and that we rejected last year, ignoring the key symbolic changes made to the Constitutional text to remove the statelike trappings which were of such concern, and in the Irish case, it ignores the European Council of December 2008 to agreement to keep our Commissioner and the June 2009 agreement with the legally-binding guarantees.
He then says that the Lisbon Treaty is not about jobs or the economy, arguing that it would be a handicap to us, as we’re moving several key areas to be decided at EU level. He’s in a small minority on this. 90% of independent Irish economists in a recent Indecon survey, with no connection to the government, unions, employer groups or the media, believe a Yes vote is important for our recovery. This report looks at a number of reasons, mainly related to the effects of the perception of being eurosceptic on both funds from Europe and whether multinationals choose to locate here.
Mr Ganley goes on to disparage claims that decisions in the boardrooms of America would be affected by a No vote, citing The Wall Street Journal. But one Murdoch-owned newspaper is hardly enough to make that point. Fair enough, Mr Ganley would argue, he’s since made use of an article by Wolfgang Munchau of the Financial Times, who had strongly supported the Lisbon Treaty last year, in which he has become more critical of it. But whatever Mr Munchau’s criticisms, he is still ultimately in favour of the ratification of the Treaty.
But whatever the FT or the WSJ might say, surely the American Chamber of Commerce should carry more weight than opinion pieces, however highly regarded. They have clearly stated that they favour a Yes vote, citing 300,000 reasons to vote Yes.
Mr Ganley then claims that nothing has changed, citing Baroness Kinnock, who had said that the Treaty itself would not need to be re-ratified by the Houses of Parliament. True, the Treaty itself may not have changed, but each of the 27 governments are bound by the European Council agreement, which has been lodged with the UN, with the same status as the Belfast Agreement.
He complains about European bureaucrats giving information to Irish schoolchildren on the EU. It sounds here as if he’s complaining about them canvassing, which was unlikely, given the age demographic. More realistically, they were informing young citizens about their polity. This is typical of those on the No side, to give out that the EU is distant, but then continue to do so when it tries to connect with the people.
He then claims that tax harmonization is on the agenda. This is clearly false. Not only do we now have a clear guarantee on taxation, which has assured Sen. Shane Ross, who cited this as his main concern last year, but direct taxation is in no way, shape or form an EU competence. There is nothing the EU could do, no matter what the French or others want, to affect our rates of corporate or income taxation.
He then talks of empowering people who we can never vote out of office. But no one who is not elected and accountable to the people can make EU laws. The Commission, appointed by the Governments, may propose laws, but it is the Council of Ministers, and the European Parliament under Lisbon, which legislates.
He claims that Lisbon creates an unelected President of Europe. This is the President of the European Council, who is Giscard d’Éstaing’s words, acts more like a chairman than anything else. They would have no policy agenda, there’d be nothing to organize a 27-member popular election on.
More bizarrely, he criticizes the fact that the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy is also unelected. What country in the world elects its foreign minister? Were Micheál Martin, Hillary Rodham Clinton, David Miliband or Bernard Kouchner directly elected?
He makes a big deal of the fact that the EU is given legal personality and that we will become citizens of the European Union. That has been the case since Maastricht, so that is an objection to the position of the last seventeen years, not to measures in the Lisbon Treaty.
He claims that we don’t need the agreement on the Commissioner that comes into effect with the Lisbon Treaty, as the Swedish Prime Minister has outlined a 26 + 1 arrangement, giving the High Representative to the 27th country. This is not the position of Commissioner that was of such importance to us, and this agreement would only last till the next enlargement.
He goes on then to throw out the term democratic deficit, as if Lisbon exacerbates this. It doesn’t. Under Lisbon, we will have:
- greater scrutiny to national parliaments to make sure European institutions aren’t overstepping their remit
- the European Parliament having joint legislative powers and review of the budget
- the Citizens’ Initiative. Yes, the Commission doesn’t have to accept it, but we can’t even put something on the Irish Cabinet’s agenda
- the Council of Ministers voting in public
He dismisses the campaigns by Intel and Ryanair on the basis that they are merely trying the ensure that they will not receive further fines from the European Commission. Even if one were to take that view, it would be to ignore the fact that businesses of all levels are calling for a Yes vote. The members of the Small Firms Association and the Irish Small and Medium Enterprises Association have overwhelmingly shown support for the Treaty, while the main social partners ICTU and IBEC are supporting it too.
Mr Ganley might have strong business credentials, but we really should not take his word as our guidance on this matter on clear importance to our position in Europe and the wider world. He arguments do not stand up to scrutiny, and he has not addressed these areas of the debate.